Tiger Brands said alternative arrangements will be made to supply its Durban customer base. File picture: Reuters
Tiger Brands said alternative arrangements will be made to supply its Durban customer base. File picture: Reuters

Don't fear our bread says Tiger Brands after 12 employees tests positive for Covid-19 at Durban bakery

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Apr 16, 2020

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Durban - Tiger Brands has moved to quickly allay fears that there was no risk to coronavirus contamination of food after 12 employees at their Durban bakery tested positive for Covid-19, forcing the temporary closure of the facility this week.

On Wednesday, Tiger Brands confirmed the precautionary and temporary closure of its bakery in Durban after a round of Covid-19 tests showed that at least 12 employees had been struck by the virus.

According to the company, an employee who reported for duty was advised to seek medical attention after reporting feeling ill with flu-like symptoms. 

A Covid-19 test was conducted on the employee that returned positive last Thursday.

"As per the NICD protocol, all employees who had come into close contact with the individual were identified and sent for precautionary testing and self-isolation as they were asymptomatic. The testing was subsequently extended to all staff in the admin building where the first patient worked. These results were received yesterday 15 April," Nevashnee Naicker, the Corporate Communications Director at Tiger Brands said in a statement.

"Twelve employees tested positive for coronavirus and are in self-isolation. All of these employees work in the administration building and none of these employees work on the production line or are involved in the delivery of product to our customers," she said.

Naicker said that there were concerns around food safety regarding bread, adding that as Covid-19 was a novel virus, Tiger Brands was guided by the research provided by the Department of Health and the NICD, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other recognised disease control bodies globally.

"According to the WHO, NICD and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), there is currently no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the virus. The World Health Organisation has stated that experiences from previous outbreaks of related Coronaviruses shows that transmission through food consumption did not occur. Nonetheless, good food hygiene – such as washing your hands before handling food, and using clean utensils and cutting boards, is pivotal food safety behaviour and should be taken seriously".

Tiger Brands said that their bread manufacturing process is highly automated - from mixing, to baking, to slicing, to sealing into tamper proof bags and crating. 

"In the event of a positive Covid-19 case, we have developed specific protocols to mitigate the risk of any environmental or surface contamination. This includes isolation and sanitizing of the packaged product, all surfaces in the factory and all delivery trucks. As a result of the bakery’s closure, the bread produced in this facility yesterday has not been dispatched to the market," Naicker said.

"As a company, we have followed a pre-emptive preparatory approach to quickly, safely and responsibly respond to both suspected and confirmed cases of Covid-19 among employees. This includes a well-developed Health and Safety protocol specifically designed for Covid-19, which is inclusive of the steps that each site will follow in the case of a suspected or confirmed Covid-19 case. It is also important to note that Covid-19 is a notifiable disease and that in the event of a confirmed case, the protocols outlined by the Department of Health and the NICD are triggered".

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